No one is exactly sure.
If you own a late-model Honda Civic or Accord, or any relatively new Honda or Acura model, you might want to pay attention to this. Perhaps it’s already too late for some. According to USA Today, criminals across the US have been stealing airbags out of late-model Hondas in order to resell them on the black market, be it online or to shady local repair shops. Both the driver and front passenger airbags are being targeted.
Law enforcement agencies in cities such as New York, Miami and the Washington DC area have noticed an increased number of Honda airbag thefts lately, but this is also a nationwide issue. Unfortunately, this type of theft is not easy to track because both the FBI and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration don’t track airbag theft.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau estimates about 50,000 airbags are stolen every year. However, the NICB doesn’t track specific trends, such as Hondas specifically being targeted for their airbags, so it’s unable to provide an answer as to why this automaker is a higher risk.
In Miami-Dade County, for example, thieves stole 875 airbags last year. In 2013, only 13 airbags were stolen. In the Virginia suburbs around DC, thieves recently smashed the windows of 10 Hondas at an apartment building complex for the specific purpose of stealing the airbags. Turns out some Honda airbags can go for as much as $500 a pop at chop shops.
“Because of their portability, airbags can be easily removed and installed as ‘new’ by unscrupulous collision repair shops,” the NICB says. “These dishonest operators will then charge the vehicle owner or their insurer the full price for the replacement, thus committing insurance fraud.”
Another reason why Honda airbags are being targeted is because of the many airbags recalls over the past few years, specifically the recall of about 50 million Takata airbags equipped with potentially explosive airbag inflators. Suppliers have been working overtime to make replacement parts, thus creating unintentional black market demand. A Honda spokesperson told USA Today there “should be no linkage” between the Takata recall and these thefts.
For the most part, a majority of targeted Hondas are late-model Civics and Accords. Stealing an airbag is not very difficult for anyone trained to do so, requiring about five to ten minutes to steal one airbag.